3

In IPA, the sounds of many symbols are so close that they are indistinguishable to me! For example, [bʊk], [ɓʊk], or [βʊk]. Even though they do have some minor differences, but all a listener like me hears is "book".

So is there any "Simplified IPA" where they contain all possible pronunciations but yet omit all those phonetically indistinguishable symbols?

  • 1
    They're not indistinguishable at all, and anyone trying to learn a language which distinguishes them will either learn them or never acquire the language to any fluency. – curiousdannii Nov 20 '19 at 3:45
9

The reason that all the different characters for “the same sound” exist is because they’re not the same sound, and trained linguists/linguistic researchers can hear the difference. Any “simplified IPA” wouldn’t be a true “IPA”, and would not be able to accurately represent the difference in sounds; you would end up with the present situation where the spelling of words in a language not suited for the alphabet being used does not accurately reflect the actual pronunciation of the word (for example, Spanish vaca, cow, which some people hear as though it should be spelled baka, because neither b nor v in the Latin alphabet is an accurate representation of the sound used).

  • I totally understand, but is there any system for the "regular people" (not trained linguists/linguistic researchers)!? Because some differences in IPA are truly "too minute"! One really could never tell the difference "without training"! – PiggyChu001 Nov 19 '19 at 13:18
  • 4
    Any system for the "regular people" wouldn't be "universal" in the sense that IPA is; you'd simply end up with Yet Another Not-Quite-Accurate Transliteration Convention. You might as well pick a dictionary that doesn't use IPA (virtually any dictionary aimed at users below the collegiate level would be a good candidate) and adopt its system for representing pronunciations. – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 19 '19 at 13:31
  • Another possible source for an alternative pronunciation representation system might be to look at phonetically-based systems for teaching children to read, such as DISTAR or the Pitman Initial Teaching Alphabet [Wikipedia link] [Omniglot link], or any of the alternative systems listed on Omniglot under the headings "Alternative spelling/writing systems" or "Phonetic Alphabets". – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 19 '19 at 13:47
  • OK. Is there any statistic research on the IPA usages!? Maybe I could pick some "most often used" alphabets for my language. – PiggyChu001 Nov 19 '19 at 14:35
  • 3
    If the language contains all possible pronunciations, then the full IPA is the only possible solution. If you don't want to deal with the minute differences between e.g. [β], [b], and [ɓ], then your language doesn't actually contain all possible pronunciations, and you can simply choose one of the alternatives to represent whichever sound your language does have. – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 19 '19 at 15:22
16

If you're notating a language that uses [β] or [ɓ] but does not distinguish it from [b], that is, if there are no words such that changing one of these consonants to the other changes the meaning of the word (perhaps because [β] occurs only between vowels and [b] elsewhere), then for most purposes you write them all as /b/; so that is a “simplified IPA”. This is called broad transcription, written with slashes to distinguish it from narrow transcription using brackets. A famous example: English /p/ includes both [p] and [pʰ], which are distinguished in many languages including Zulu, Hindustani, Mandarin.

No language makes phonemic distinctions between all pairs of phones represented by distinct symbols in IPA; but every symbol exists because some language contrasts it with others.

-2

There is SaypU, which tries to creates a universal phonetic alphabet for all languages with only 24 letters, many of which can be used to represent slightly different sounds in different languages.

"a" in SaypU can represent /a/, /æ/, and /ɑ/, depending on the language. "y" represents /j/, /ʎ/, and /ʝ/. "w" represents both /w/ and /ɥ/.

  • I’m not entirely sure this qualifies as a ‘universal phonetic alphabet’ by any means. What happens, for instance, in a language which distinguishes /a æ ɑ/ (e.g. Äiwoo), /j ʎ/ (e.g. Warlpiri, some Spanish dialects), or /w ɥ/ (e.g. French, Abkhaz)? – bradrn Oct 9 '20 at 5:50
  • @bradrn, you use diacritics (a, ä, ã). – Galactic Oct 13 '20 at 4:31
  • Thanks for clarifying! Do the diacritics have any consistent meaning within SaypU, or are they used in an ad-hoc fashion? I’d call it a ‘universal phonetic alphabet for all languages’ in the former case only. – bradrn Oct 13 '20 at 7:59
  • @bradrn, They don’t have any consistent meaning. – Galactic Oct 14 '20 at 21:50
  • In that case, I wouldn’t call it a ’universal phonetic alphabet’, since it can’t specify the exact phonetic details of every sound in the same way IPA can. If anything, I’d say it’s a standardised set of mappings for romanization purposes, similarly to e.g. the General Alphabet of Cameroon Languages. – bradrn Oct 15 '20 at 0:42
-3

This is a question well suited for a non-linguist. I have wondered about exactly this for the past few years and have come up with a system which is almost finished. I think the way to look at it is there are about 24 clearly different consonant sounds, and 12 different vowel sounds (including the English "r" as a vowel which I think is better). All the other consonant and vowel sounds are variations on these base 36 sounds.

If you are not an experienced native speaker or linguist in a particular language, and you were to be able to pronounce the 36 base sounds, you could get by as a beginner. Then as you learn how to get more refined and produce the variations of the sounds, you can move out of the beginner stage into the native stage.

What are these 36 sounds? I have started to map them out here. Letters without diacritics are the base sounds. Still working on how to present this so take with a grain of salt.

enter image description here

But here is a map of some of the initial values mapped to IPA.

ø,e̤,e~
ɔ,ṳ,u~
r,o̤,o~
i,i,i
e,e,e
a,a,a
ɒ,a,a
o,o,o
u,u,u
ɪ,ị,I
ɛ,ẹ,E
æ,ạ,A
ə,ụ,U
ʊ,ọ,O
ɯ,ọ,O
ɤ,ọ,O
y,i̤,Y
ɨ,i̤,Y
m,m,m
ɱ,ṃ,M
ɲ,ny,ny
n,n,n
ɳ,ṇ,N
ŋ,q,q
ɴ,q,q
ɠ,g̀,g?
ʛ,g̀,g?
ɡ,g,g
ɢ,g,g
ʔ,','
ʢ,","
dʼ,d̖,d!
ɗ,d̗,d?
ǂ,d̬,d*
d,d,d
ɖ,ḍ,D
ʙ,bb,bb
ɓ,b̗,b?
bʼ,b̖,b!
b,b,b
pʼ,ṕ,p!
ʘ,p̂,p*
p,p,p
tʼ,t̖,t!
tˤ,t̤,t~
ǀ,t̬,t*
t,t,t
ʈ,ṭ,T
kʼ,k̖,k!
ǃ,k̬,k*
k,k,k
c,k,k
q,ḳ,K
ħ,h̤,h~
ɦ,h̤,h~
ʜ,ḥḥ,HH
χ,ḥḥ,HH
h,h,h
x,ḥ,H
ʐ,j,j
ʒ,j,j
ʑ,j,j
ɮ,ȷ̈,J
sˤ,ṣ,S
s,s,s
ç,s̤,s~
f,f,f
ɸ,f̣,F
v,v,v
β,ṿ,V
ʋ,v,v
z,z,z
θ,c,c
ɬ,c̤,c~
ð,c̣,C
?,ḷ,L
ǁ,l̬,l*
l,l,l
lˤ,l̤,l~
ʀ,r̤r̤,RR
r,ŕŕ,rr
ʁ,r̤,r~
ɰ,r̤,r~
ɣ,r̤,r~
ɾ,r,r
ɽ,ṛ,R
ɕ,x̤,x~
ʃ,x,x
ʂ,x̣,X
w,w,w
ɥ,yw,yw
j,y,y
ʝ,y,y
ʑ,zy,zy

In the second column are what I call the OVO script, a latin script with minimal diacritics to get it across. OVO meaning "One Voice Orthography". The letter forms you see in the image above are a more expansive set of characters (36 shapes) to account for all the base sounds without diacritics. Again, it's in the final stages so not 100% exact, but if you click the "find word" links for various languages, there is an initial attempt at collecting some words in Arabic, Tibetan, Hindi, and others using this lettering system, which I am calling Hanakana.

So in short, yes, I believe there is a simpler way to deal with the IPA system, that will get you to pronounce any language with at least a beginner level of skill. Then adding diacritics (dots and arcs) to Hanakana, you can capture almost all of the IPA sounds. By almost all, I mean capturing most of the variations without getting into an exact replica of IPA. Because even IPA isn't 100% accurate, it is a set of approximations of the vocal chords and shapes of the mouth and air moving through these crevices as you've probably seen. So with this system here, you can do everything you would need to to speak languages from humans on earth, with current human anatomy.

To account for aspiration, add an "h" equivalent after the character, like normal. To account for nasal vowels, add a dot below, etc.

  • 2
    Well... why do you think this is any less subjective than other attempts at a simplified IPA? Especially so since you seem to have left out aspirated consonants. – Richard Dec 26 '20 at 0:21
  • @LancePollard I downvoted primarily because of various inconsistencies, incorrect claims and confusing points in this post. For instance, it claims that there are ‘24 clearly different consonant sounds and 12 different vowel sounds’, and that anyone who knows these 36 basic sounds can get by as a beginner in any language. Neither of these are correct. [1/2] – bradrn Dec 26 '20 at 8:12
  • 1
    @LancePollard [2/2] It then goes on to list 45 letters, followed by another list of about 80 different sounds (both presumably different to the 36 basic sounds). I found these lists extremely confusing, since you don’t explain the relationship between them (though I presume there is one). The latter list contains rare sounds like /ʛ ɥ ɰ ʙ ɱ ǂ/ — as well as sounds like /dʼ bʼ/ which are not only unattested but physically impossible to pronounce — but not common ones such as /ɹ ɑ t̪/, a choice which I also find strange. – bradrn Dec 26 '20 at 8:12
  • Flipping and rotating symbols has been used before (Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics), but you only have three basic symbols here. All the work is done in rotations, adding a tail, or two small diacritics. How is that any clearer than the IPA? It may also be harder for children to learn, or someone with dyslexia. – curiousdannii Dec 28 '20 at 6:53
  • @curiousdannii good points, I haven't thought about dyslexia yet but considered in some cases it may be hard to parse. Anyways, here is a note in more detail about the latin system. – Lance Pollard Dec 28 '20 at 21:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.